Wednesday, September 25, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.35: The Mind Leads, the Body Follows

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
anvavrajann-āśramiṇas-tatas-taṁ tad-rūpa--māhātmya-gatair-manobhiḥ |
deśād-anāryair-abhibhūyamānān-maharṣayo dharmam-ivāpayāntam || 7.35

Then the ashram-dwellers followed him,

Their minds directed on his beauty and dignity 

Like great seers following the dharma, when,

From a land being overrun by uncivil people,
the dharma is retreating.

EBC translated deśād-anāryair-abhibhūyamānāt as “from a land invaded by the base”; EHJ as “from a land overrun by infidels”; and PO as “from a land that's overrun by barbarous men.”

As a translation of abhibhūyamānāt, “overrun” seems to fit, but with two present participles in the second half of the verse (abhibhūyamānāt, beng overrun, and apāyantam, retreating), the original might be intended to sound more dynamic. With that in mind, I was tempted to translate the final word of the verse, apāyantam, as “running away.”

I am not sure how best to translate anāryaiḥ. Some Sanskrit words with many different connotations, like dharma, many translators seem to agree, are best left untranslated. But āryan is a difficult one since in Sanskrit its connotation is positive (as in the four āryan truths), whereas to us, due to the appropriation of the term Aryan by Hitler and the Nazis, the connotation has become negative.

Thus, ironically, the flight of Albert Einstein from Germany to America fits very well with what is described in today's verse, but Einstein was running away from people who claimed to be Aryan.

As a translation of anāryaiḥ, EHJ's “infidels” has the merit of the English in- mirroring the Sanskrit an-, and that translation is supported by the MW dictionary definition of an āryan as “one who is faithful to the religion of his country.” PO's “barbarous men” has the merit of avoiding religious barnacles, though it can't help bringing to my mind images of barbarian hordes sacking Rome. I have veered in the end towards under-statement with the incipid but relatively neutral “uncivil.”

Besides Albert Einstein, another example that springs to mind of a great seer leaving a land where conditions were becoming unfavourable to pursuit of the truth is the example of Master Bodhidharma, the Zen patriarch who, 16 generations after Aśvaghoṣa, went from India to China.

Might Aśvaghoṣa have somehow seen it coming? Conversely, might Bodhidharma have been helped in his decision by reading, hearing, and reciting these words of Aśvaghoṣa? 

In conclusion, then, today's verse is one of those verses that we have encountered before in which ostensibly a simile is subordinate to an element in the narrative but in which really the narrative might be subordinate to the simile. In other words, Aśvaghoṣa's real intention may be to use an element in the narrative which is not so important (the ascetics were transfixed by the prince) to draw our attention to a principle that deserves deeper consideration (people who are very wise, when conditions are becoming unworkable, do not always hunker down in preparation to make a heroic last stand like General Custer; sometimes they put an egg in their boot and beat it).

anvavrajan = 3rd pers. pl. imperf. anu- √ vraj : to follow (especially a departing guest , as a mark of respect)
āśramiṇaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. belonging to a hermitage , a hermit , anchorite
tataḥ: ind. then

tam (acc. sg.): m. him
tad-rūpa-māhātmya-gataiḥ (inst. pl. n.):
rūpa: n. outward appearance ; handsome form , loveliness , grace , beauty , splendour
māhātmya: n. (fr. mahā*tman) magnanimity , highmindedness; exalted state or position , majesty , dignity
gata: mfn. relating to , referring to , connected with (e.g. putra-gata sneha , love directed towards the son)
manobhiḥ (inst. pl.): n. mind

deśāt (abl. sg.): m. place ; province , country , kingdom
anāryaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. not honourable or respectable , vulgar , inferior
ārya: m. a respectable or honourable or faithful man , an inhabitant of āryāvarta ; one who is faithful to the religion of his country ; a man highly esteemed , a respectable , honourable man ; (with Buddhists [pāli ayyo , or ariyo]) a man who has thought on the four chief truths of Buddhism (» next col.) and lives accordingly , a Buddhist priest ; mfn. Aryan; behaving like an Aryan , worthy of one , honourable , respectable , noble ;
abhibhūyamānāt = abl. sg. m. pres. part. passive abhi- √ bhū: to overcome , overpower , predominate , conquer , surpass , overspread ;

maharṣayaḥ (nom. pl.): m. a great ṛṣi , any great sage or saint
dharmam (acc. sg.): dharma
iva: like
apayāntam = acc. sg. m. pres. part. apa √i: to go away , withdraw , retire , run away , escape ; to vanish, disappear

時彼諸梵志 悉來請留住
眷仰菩薩徳 無不勤勸請 
汝從非法處 來至正法林
而復欲棄捨 是故勸請留 

No comments: